Are people working more today than they did in the past? Without providing any statistics here, my gut feeling would say ‘Yes’. I believe that a couple of decades ago people had more work-life balance than today: most worked a fixed 9-to-5 schedule, and there was less overtime. Indeed, ‘taking work home’ back then would literally mean taking some documents/papers home; plus, once out of the office the connection with colleagues drastically decreased. And today? Many have flexible working hours, we are connected 24/7, and our work is pretty much always with us: be it though smartphone, laptop or some other mobile device. Employees are also increasingly traveling for business, and days of business travel rarely fit into the schedule of one’s limited working hours, don’t they?
As such, today employees seem to be adopting much more flexibility within their work, which blurs the separation between work and other life domains. It should therefore come as no surprise that employees are also trying to blend their leisure time with their work related assignments.
Specifically, lately there has been plenty of talk about ‘Bleisure’ travel – mixing business travel with leisure activities. Several recent surveys, such as the survey of Virgin Atlantic travellers and the BridgeStreet Global Hospitality survey, indicate that the majority of business travelers mix pleasure into every business trip, and many extend business trips for vacation. Moreover, the surveys indicate that around half of all business travelers have experience of bringing their family members along. Finally, the BridgeStreet report highlights that the primary reason for bleisure travel among younger business travelers is to visit a place they have never been to, and the most popular bleisure activities include sightseeing, dining and art/culture experiences.
Would anyone blame you for that? Quite unlikely, as all of us, with or without business travel experience, can understand the urge of enjoying the pleasures of travel while on business. I also get exited when going for business to some new destination, I try to find time within my busy overseas schedule to look around and learn about the local culture, and I am naturally experiencing a traveler’s satisfaction when staying in a nice hotel or dining in a nice place. As such, bleisure travel can probably add value to work assignments, increase satisfaction and engagement, and finally create a more balanced work life.
Therefore, I would argue that bleisure travel can be a great, yet low cost, source for companies to benefit and cherish their employees. Still, are there any possible risks? As I mentioned, bleisure travel does not usually create much additional costs for the company. Employees try to use the opportunities already given by their business travel agenda, and when staying in a particular location for longer, the extra costs for accommodation and food are normally born by the employee him-/herself. As such, everyone is ‘happy’: employees save on the costs of the air ticket, the employer has no additional cost but gets a more satisfied employee.
At the same time, I would agree with the notion, brought up in a recent Skift article, that there is a need for policies, which would define possibilities of leisure activities during business trips. For example, if an employee takes a spouse with him/her on a business trip, should the cost of a hotel room be split between the employee and the company? Will the company travel insurance cover also the extra leisure days spent in the location? If leisure forms a relatively greater share of the overall trip than business matters on any single trip, will the company expect a proportional payment for the return ticket from the employee?
As we see, there can be several ambiguous situations, which create the need for formal company policies on the matter. Naturally, how much and what is allowed is up to each company, yet, I would still encourage employers to more actively look into this pool of less costly, but pretty valuable employee benefits.